Amateur geologist's Jurassic discoveries go on display
Wiltshire amateur geologist Simon Carpenter's rare Jurassic finds – including a 140 million-year-old crocodile that has been named after him – are going on display in Radstock Museum.
Mr Carpenter's day job is promoting active lifestyles in the public health sector, but at weekends he can usually be found traipsing along the Jurassic seabed in a clay quarry in Westbury, Wiltshire, searching for interesting discoveries.
This includes the fossilised remains of the 4-6m Dakosaurus Carpenteri – one of the metriorhynchid crocodile group which had paddle-like legs and shark tail fins, making them more like a fish than a modern-day crocodile.
Also on display will be bones from a Pliosaur – a carnivorous marine reptile which could be 4-15m and resembled a snake in a turtle's shell – which Mr Carpenter discovered in the LaFarge cement works in 1994.
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The Kimmeridge clay in the Westbury quarry was laid down when the south of England was part of an ocean, the climate was sub-tropical and there was almost certainly no ice at the Poles. These conditions made it ideal for preserving fossils.
"These discoveries provide a vital insight into life before our existence and it is wonderful to be able to put them on public display," said Mr Carpenter.
"Obviously some of the bones I have found are now at the Bristol Museum, but hopefully the display in Radstock will give people a picture of what the Dakosaurus Carpenteri and the Pliosaur may have looked like."
Mr Carpenter, 54, who lives in Frome, discovered his crocodile, which has a 75cm skull, in 2004.
He painstakingly cleaned it and presented it to a palaeobiology student from Bristol University for examination.
When suspicions arose that it might be a new species, an expert from the Natural History Museum in London to officially 'describe', record and name the remains.
"Obviously it's pretty exciting for somebody like me to have a species named after them, but so many people have worked on this I don't feel that deserving of the acclaim," said Mr Carpenter.
"The Dakosaurus Carpenteri was a reptile which would have adapted to marine life and had smooth skin like a dolphin. Evidence suggests it would probably have been unable to get back up on to land once living in the water."
Mr Carpenter also found a Plesiosaur, a long-necked sea reptile related to the Pliosaur which resembled our vision of the Loch Ness Monster.
"They all dated from the Upper Jurassic period around 140 million years ago and would have been creatures in a strange under-water world," he said.
Fossilised remains of turtles and fish found by Mr Carpenter will also form part of the exhibition, at Radstock Museum until March 25.
The geology exhibition complements the celebrations of Darwin's 200th birthday and the opening of a permanent Jurassic Fossil Display at the museum.